18. OF P.J. Hilson
Acquired: 2018 draft (6th round)
Future Value: 40 (grade down)
If you follow San Francisco Giants prospects through box scores, you’ll probably be skeptical of this ranking. P.J. Hilson is the perfect example of a scout’s prospect.
In 327 career plate appearances in rookie ball, Hilson is hitting .201 with 120 strikeouts. Yet, he remains one of the most intriguing prospects in the system.
Hilson was a classic pop-up prospect last spring. While he was clearly raw, he showed off an incredible collection of tools on the showcase circuit in the summer of 2017. The Giants were intrigued enough to sign him away from a two-sport future at Alabama.
Since Hilson has turned pro, his 70-grade arm, 70-grade speed, and 55-grade raw power have consistently been on display. Baseball America awarded him the best athlete, best arm, and fastest player in the entire San Francisco Giants system last year, less than six months after he signed.
That combination of tools could be the foundation of a star.
Of course, as is apparent from his performance, his hit tool is very unrefined. No matter his struggles at the plate, there remains an outcome where Hilson is able to make enough content to become a transcendent star. Then again, even the 65th percentile outcome for Hilson probably doesn’t reach Triple-A.
If Hilson does reach the majors, it will most likely be as a below-average hitter who adds enough value defensively and on the base paths to earn a roster spot. In other words, an ideal fourth outfielder who could start in a pinch.
At this point, talking about Hilson’s major league outcomes is silly. He’s so far away and so much can change between now and then that it’s all guesswork. He’s a mystery box of tools and inexperience that the Giants hope they can shape into a productive player.
Hilson just turned 19 at the end of August. The years he played football combined with his youth are the two best cases for belief in his future progression. He’ll likely be back in rookie ball next season and he will need to make some substantive progress to maintain his prospect status.